Francona working to pull Bourn out of slump

Francona working to pull Bourn out of slump

MILWAUKEE -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes he has two primary responsibilities: doing everything in his power to rack up wins and to put his players in a position to have success. The latest slump involving center fielder Michael Bourn has complicated both fronts for his manager.

Throughout Bourn's offensive trials this season, Francona has tried a variety of things in an effort to spark the veteran's bat. Bourn was moved out of the leadoff spot in late April, and the outfielder has seen his plate appearances against left-handed pitching decrease. While Bourn has had spurts of success, he has once again found himself in an ugly dry spell.

"You're trying to win, but you're trying to also get guys going," Francona said on Wednesday. "I think sometimes as a manager you can play guys just enough to put them in a tough spot. When he does play, I want it to be against guys I think he's had success against. All you can do is do the best you can. Kind of like players, I do the best I can. We want so bad for the guys to do well. He's just going through a tough time. It's been frustrating. I know he's [frustrated], too."

Bourn, who was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Brewers, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and one double-play groundout in Tuesday's 8-1 loss. Over his past 34 games, the center fielder has hit just .165 with a .408 OPS in 102 plate appearances. In the previous 34 games, dating back to when he was pulled out of the leadoff spot, he hit .307 with a .763 OPS in 117 plate appearances.

On the season, Bourn was sporting a .225/.296/.269 slash line through 83 games entering Wednesday. He was struggling nearly equally against righties (.226 average) and lefties (.224).

"I know that me, myself, I haven't had a good season up to this point," Bourn said on Tuesday night. "But I'm not going to stop playing. I'm going to keep on scrapping. I know the team leans on me and I'll just keep going until they say we've got to go home."

Bourn is making $13.5 million in the third season of a four-year contract he signed with Cleveland prior to the 2013 campaign. The 32-year-old is slated to earn $14 million in '16 and he has a $12 million vesting option for '17 based on plate appearances. Under the circumstances, it would make sense for the Indians to try to find a taker for Bourn with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline looming.

In the meantime, Francona will continue to do what he can to help get Bourn going at the plate again.

"I think it starts -- probably with everybody -- with your base," Francona said. "He's not on his heels, but he doesn't always have his balance as much as he wants, so it's hard for him to make some adjustments, especially to offspeed [pitches]. He knows it. I think in the cage he's done a really good job. Just taking it into the game has been harder for him.

"I know he's frustrated. He cares a lot. It's just been hard because we're not hitting as a team a lot to begin with, and then when you've got a guy scuffling like that, it just kind of becomes a little more glaring."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.